2023 Chattanooga Visitors Guide
Chattanooga offers a unique travel experience ranging from family-friendly fun to romantic getaways to thrilling outdoor adventures. Because of the variety and charm of the city, it was named one of the country’s top travel destinations. Chattanooga has an extensive history and many notable Civil War sites. The Battle Above the Clouds was found in Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. Visitors can learn more about the area’s history at many of the Civil War Trails locations throughout the city.
Chattanooga Vacation Guide
One of the top attractions that provide entertainment for the whole family is the Tennessee Aquarium, home to numerous fresh and saltwater animals. The Creative Discovery Museum is specifically designed for kids. Just some of the activities available to entertain the little ones at Creative include climbing a three-story lookout tour, water play in the man-made river, and digging for dinosaur bones. One of the most popular tours for kids is aboard the Chattanooga Ducks. The amphibious bus is a former World War II vehicle manufactured to travel on land or through the water.
Perched high above Lookout Mountain is the world-famous Rock City Gardens. The rock formations have been turned into a family-friendly adventure. Visitors can enjoy Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village on a journey through the mountain. The area also boasts a 140-foot-high waterfall and the scenic rock formation called Lovers Leap. Some of the best dining experiences in Chattanooga for families are the Southern Burger Company, The Hot Chocolatier, Taco Mamacita’s, Sticky Fingers Smokehouse, and Tony’s Pasta Shop & Trattoria.
Chattanooga Choo Choo
Trains automatically evoke a romantic image and the Chattanooga Choo Choo is no exception. The Chattanooga Choo Choo is a meticulously restored 1909 train depot that saw thousands of travelers in its heyday. The depot has now been converted into the renowned Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. The attraction has three hotel buildings, a number of excellent shops, and five fabulous restaurants.
Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
The hotel also offers one-of-a-kind overnight accommodations where guests can sleep in an authentic opulent sleeper car that once served only the elite passengers of the railroad era. A great way to reconnect is taking a self-guided ecotour where you can enjoy the beautiful Tennessee River. One of the best stores to rent paddling gear is L2 Boards in the heart of downtown.
In the evening, couples can snuggle while riding a horse-drawn carriage through downtown Chattanooga. The top-rated romantic dining establishments include wine tasting at DeBarge, dinner at Alleia, eating at the upscale Southern Bistro Public House, and enjoying a great steak at the vintage High Point Restaurant.
Chattanooga whitewater rafting
Close to Chattanooga are two of the premier whitewater rafting destinations in the World, the Ocoee River, and the Nantahala River. Outdoor enthusiasts can go on a heart-pounding ride through churning waters on the Ocoee. For novices who want a great experience, floating down the Nantahala is a great way to be introduced to whitewater rafting. Another water adventure is taking a high-speed cruise on the Tennessee Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer.
A plethora of tours are available to assist travelers to become familiar with this city on the river. One of the most unique experiences is a ghost walk. Ghost tours are a memorable way to learn about the more sinister aspects of the city while getting a little exercise.
Residents are pleased with the renaissance in recent years, transforming Downtown Chattanooga and the Riverfront. The Tennessee River winds its way around the urban center and the famous Lookout Mountain. From worn-out stores and tired empty industrial buildings and streets, the Scenic City has arisen to the task and created a flourishing downtown.
Walnut Street Bridge
In fact, Chattanooga has received awards for its downtown updates. One of the first projects was restoring the Walnut Street Bridge across the Tennessee River. The bridge was constructed in the late 1800s. Now made safe for people on foot and bicycle, the bridge is the globe’s longest bridge for pedestrians connecting to parks, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Riverwalk on both sides of the river.
The historic neighborhood on the Riverfront has been restored by locals interested in the beautifying of Downtown Chattanooga. The area has nearly two blocks of quiet residential streets in the heart of the city. Including the Hunter’s Museum, the district provides art galleries, boutique inns, and delightful cafes today.
Chattanooga, Tenn. features a humid subtropical climate that can vary widely throughout the year. Here is an overview of the seasonal weather conditions this climate produces that can help you plan your next trip through Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain Valley with confidence.
Chattanooga’s summer weather is typically hot and humid. This is hardly surprising because Chattanooga’s location near the Tennessee River allows hot and humid air to build up around the Lookout Mountains.
Chattanooga’s hottest weather typically occurs during June and July when temperatures regularly surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, temperatures can climb over 100 degrees Fahrenheit whenever a strong high-pressure system settles around Chattanooga’s downtown area.
Chattanooga’s hot and humid weather can produce many scattered thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes throughout the summer. Many of these weather disturbances can wreak havoc on travelers’ plans because they can drop over 2 inches of rain in less than 30 minutes.
Chattanooga’s autumn weather features temperatures that can range from 45 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This weather pattern produces cool nights and brisk mornings. It also produces many sunny days during September that typically feature partly cloudy skies and light breezes.
Chattanooga’s wettest weather occurs during September and October when up to 5 inches of precipitation falls across the Lookout Mountain Valley Range. Much of this precipitation is rain. However, snow can occasionally fall in the area during late October and early November when a cold front passes through the area.
Winters in Chattanooga are typically dry, cold, and windy. These weather conditions occasionally produce ice storms that can last up to 48 hours.
Most of Chattanooga’s most severe ice storms develop during December whenever a strong cold front merges with humid air near the downtown area. These ice storms can pose serious problems for travelers because they produce black ice that can make driving on Chattanooga’s roads dangerous.
Moreover, up to 4 inches of snow can fall around Chattanooga during December and January. Most of this snow is wet snow that typically falls west of the downtown area near the Tennessee River. However, many areas around the Fort Wood neighborhood typically see snow during a week-long stretch that typically lasts from late December to early January.
Chattanooga’s spring weather patterns typically feature mild temperatures that range from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. These weather patterns typically spawn many sunny days during April that include mostly sunny skies and light winds.
Finally, Chattanooga’s spring weather patterns also feature periods of windy weather that typically occur during late March and early April. These periods of windy weather occasionally spawn severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that can drop up to 2 inches of hail along the Lookout Mountain Valley Basin. They also produce occasional floods that can make driving hazardous near the downtown area. As a result, many locals recommend packing a high-quality waterproof jacket to cope with Chattanooga’s spring weather conditions.
Chattanooga’s downtown is a walking city with a riverwalk and a walking bridge over the Tennessee River. Regular, free electric buses cover big landmarks. Routes include most downtown hotels, the convention center, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, the Tennessee Aquarium, the I-Max theater, the Lookouts Baseball Stadium, and the Children’s Discovery Museum. You can also use it for shopping and dining. There is a multi-plex theater on its route, too. To venture out of downtown, Chattanooga has a local bus service that can be accessed via a smartphone or computer for details on bus stops and precise arrival times.
Chattanooga is served by the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. It offers nine daily flights on American Eagle to a major hub, Atlanta, which is only two hours away by car on I-75. U.S. Airways offers six daily flights to Charlotte, North Carolina, another major hub. Charlotte is about four hours away by car. To travel from Charlotte to Chattanooga by car, drivers take I-26 west to I-40 west to I-75 south.
American Eagle offers two daily flights to Houston, Texas, where many passengers link to/from the U.S. Southwest, California, Hawaii, Asia, and Australia. Other travels to/from many of these destinations arrive/depart via American Eagle’s two daily flights to Chicago, Illinois. American Eagle also flies daily to Detroit, Michigan. There is also one daily flight to Washington, D.C., via U.S. Airways. Allegiant Airline offers two weekly flights each to major vacation destinations Tampa, Florida, and Orlando, Florida.
If renting a car at the airport, there are many car rental services available on-site, including Enterprise, Hertz, Budget, and Avis. If you are driving from the airport to a downtown hotel, take a right on Airport Road and another right on Brainerd Road. Follow Brainerd Road for about eight miles into the downtown area. There are also for-hire car services, which should be pre-booked, and taxis, which are generally available. Chattanooga is only a mid-sized city, and taxi service may be thin at peak times.
Chattanooga is also served by Greyhound bus service, which travels all over the region. A newer service, Megabus offers quicker travel to/from Chicago, New York, D.C. and other large cities. If traveling on Amtrak, take the Crescent City line to Atlanta. From Atlanta, take the Greyhound or Megabus. To reach Chattanooga from the Nashville or Atlanta airports, take on-site Groome Transport, which leaves every hour. Reservations are suggested. From Atlanta, drivers take I-75 north. From points north, take I-81S to I-40W to I-75 south. From points west, catch I-24 east.
Showcasing more than 12,000 fish, reptiles, birds, animals, and insects, the Tennessee Aquarium is one of Chattanooga’s most popular attractions. The Aquarium features two major exhibits, the River Journey and the Ocean Journey. The River Journey is the largest freshwater aquarium in the world and displays a great number of species that live in the freshwater areas between Tennessee and the Gulf of Mexico. In this exhibit, visitors can view the likes of giant catfish, playful river otters, poisonous snakes, snapping turtles and tiger sharks. The Ocean Journey exhibit presents a wide array of ocean species like seahorses, sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, tropical fish, penguins and much more. Visitors will also enjoy the Butterfly Garden, which displays hundreds of colorful butterfly species.
Rock City Garden
Another popular attraction in Chattanooga is Rock City Gardens, which is a 14-acre complex of natural rock formations dating back nearly 200 million years ago. These massive rocks have all formed in a way that resembles a small city complete with natural bridges. Visitors can walk along a trail that winds around the rocks and over the bridges where they can admire more than 400 different species of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees that are native to the Chattanooga area. Children will enjoy the Fairyland Caverns, a display of recreated, classic fairy tales like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Little Red Riding Hood and Three Blind Mice.
Lookout Mountain Point Park
Located on a high mountain top overlooking the city of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River, Lookout Mountain Point Park is a popular spot for many Chattanooga visitors because it offers amazing views of the surrounding area. It is claimed that one can see seven states from this point. There is also a beautiful waterfall here that cascades down the edge of the mountain. This lofty park site is reached by either taking an incline rail ride up to the mountain top or accessing it by a short walk from Rock City Gardens.
Ruby Falls is a stunning waterfall located 1,000 feet underground a huge cave in Chattanooga. Though the cave was used by early Native Americans and Civil War soldiers, the existence of the waterfall was not known until the 1900s. Visitors can take a guided tour of the cave where they will see many fascinating formations of stalactites and stalagmites. Upon reaching the waterfall, guests will awe at the dazzling light show that surrounds it.
Hunter Museum of American Art
Located in a beautiful setting overlooking the Tennessee River, the Hunter Museum of American Art features a wonderful collection of American artworks. Many of these works are represented by esteemed American artists like Jack Beal, Winslow Homer, Helen Frankenthaler and Thomas Cole. Guests can also admire a variety of objects that range from the Colonial period to contemporary times.
Chattanooga is in southeastern Tennessee, right on the border of the state of Georgia. With its developing downtown and riverfront area along the Tennessee River, the updates and improvements have made Chattanooga a great place to be for residents of the local Hamilton County area as well as visitors coming in to experience some of what the Scenic City has to offer. Some of the great features of the urban center are the many great places to eat. Here are examples of the many excellent restaurant choices in Chattanooga:
Blue Grass Grill
Offering a menu with many American dishes, the Blue Grass Grill is open for breakfast and lunch. Servers go the extra mile to make certain guests enjoy their meal. Pizza, grits and eggs, corned beef hash and skillet potatoes with Greek cheese and seasonings are favorites. This fabulous find is very near the Chattanooga Choo Choo in Downtown Chattanooga.
A great place to get authentic southern-style cuisine, the atmosphere is fun/casual and the prices are low. The best-loved menu item is the fried chicken. Then, hot tamales are a close second. The mashed potatoes and gravy and fried green pickled tomatoes are great as well.
At two locations, the one that is just off the interstate on the east side of town is easy for travelers to find. The friendly and informal diner-style restaurant has a huge selection on its menu and wonderful locally-made cakes for dessert. Plates come out with an attractive presentation. Omelets, club sandwiches, steaks and international cuisine are all served. The breakfast, lunch and dinner menu is served 24 hours a day even on holidays.
Rembrandt’s Coffee House
Open from breakfast to late-night, Rembrandt’s Coffee House is a delightful place to eat. Offering indoor and outdoor seating, the establishment has a wide range of baked goods to eat with coffee and main dish menu items. The restaurant has its own chocolates as well as gluten-free baked goods and fresh fruit. Rembrandt’s Coffee House is located in the Bluff View Art District, a lovely area with art galleries and shops, cafes and the art museum.
St. John’s Restaurant
A fine dining experience at a moderate price, St. John’s Restaurant offers a seasonal menu that incorporates many local ingredients. The dining experience is superb with soft music and simple and elegant decor. The food is prepared with taste and presentation in mind.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, just two hours from Athens, Atlanta, and Nashville, has a lot of fun events throughout the year that you can attend and become part of the magic that can only happen in such a beautiful city. The Tennessee Aquarium offers something new and exciting for each month if you are interested in finding out more about friends from the deep. For those who are a little romantic and nostalgic, the Southern Belle riverboat does many different trips each day, weather permitting. This is a great way to see Chattanooga from a historical and totally different view than walking about. Foodies will enjoy coming to visit during the Taste of Chattanooga festival, which attracts fans from all over the place.
There are multiple arts festivals throughout the year including the 4 Bridges Arts Festival and the Downtown Gallery Hop to name two. The Riverbend Festival is one of Chattanooga’s favorite and most popular events, boasting vendors, performing artists, and so many musicians over the course of this nine-day festival that it is hard to decide who to watch next! Fireworks and orchestra music beautiful enough to picnic and daydream by are presented to the public from Coolidge Park when the weather gets nice outside. There is a brewer’s festival every year that showcases microbreweries’ most tasty products from across the United States.
Chattanooga never sleeps, and this town just keeps finding new events and fun ideas to spark interest in people from all around the country. Come see what all the fuss is about in Chattanooga soon. The friendly residents and events are waiting for you to become a part of the history of the city too.
Family Fun near Downtown Chattanooga
From beautiful mountain vistas to vintage railroad rides, Chattanooga is a town that offers fun and adventure for adults and children alike. Dubbed “Scenic City,” the town is located near the mountains on two lakes in southeastern Tennessee. Natural attractions are plentiful, along with museums, parks and other family-friendly destinations.
With so much to see and do, it isn’t surprising that Chattanooga draws more than three million visitors annually. Chattanooga’s favorite family attractions have garnered rave reviews from local residents, tourists and national magazines.
Tennessee Railroad Museum
The Tennessee Valley Railroad (4119 Cromwell Road), the largest historic railroad in the South, offers short trips on restored vintage train cars. It is billed as a “moving museum” that takes passengers back in time and teaches them about American train lore.
The Tennessee Railroad Museum is always sure to give you a taste of what history was like for Chattanooga, with rides and special events all year long, the railroad has always been an integral part of Chattanooga’s life. If you are in the mood to run a marathon or raise money for a great cause, there is almost always a walk of some kind going on in Chattanooga, and the people of the town are always supportive to all participants of these runs and walks. There are even elegant steam-powered dining car tours that run year-round that will take you on a historical tour of the Chattanooga, Chikamauga Battlefield, and North Georgia Mountains areas starting around lunchtime.
The Tennessee Aquarium (1400 Market St.) has been rated tops among the nation’s aquariums for guest satisfaction. The aquarium is home to many remarkable sea creatures, including sharks, otters, alligators and penguins.
IMAX 3D Theater
The IMAX 3D Theater (1 Broad St.), located about a block from the aquarium, immerses theater-goers in lifelike journeys that they won’t soon forget. The theater boasts a six-story screen — one of the largest in the region.
Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum (321 Chestnut Street) captivates young patrons with dozens of hands-on activities. One favorite is the Science Theater, where staff members entertain budding scientists with astonishing science demonstrations.
Tennessee Riverpark is a 22-mile pathway along the Tennessee River, ideal for hikers and bikers. Bicycling Magazine praised the greenway when it named Chattanooga one of the 50 best bicycling towns in the country.
Rock City (1400 Patten Road) offers stunning views of the Chattanooga Valley from Lookout Mountain. Huge rock boulders, hundreds of plant species and other natural wonders are sure to please. See the 200-foot Swing-A-Long Bridge and the climbing wall at Lover’s Leap.
At Ruby Falls (1720 South Scenic Highway), you will marvel at the deepest commercial cave in America and a dazzling 145-foot waterfall. Enjoy a guided tour and picnic on a picturesque deck. Chattanooga’s proximity to such natural treasures helped earn it a nod as one of National Geographic’s “next great adventure towns.”
The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park (301 North Holtzclaw Ave.) aims to bring animals close to visitors for a first-hand view. More than 300 animals can be seen, including wild animals like jaguars in the Corcovado Jungle display and domesticated animals in the petting area at Warner Park Ranch.
Southern Belle Riverboat
Families will learn about the city’s rich history on the Southern Belle Riverboat (201 Riverfront Parkway, Pier 2). Lunch and evening cruises offer food with a view in addition to the historic narration.
Shopping near Downtown Chattanooga
Opened annually every weekend from April to December, the Chattanooga Market is a shopping experience that should not be missed. Here, shoppers can buy fresh produce, dairy products, baked goods and locally raised beef and lamb straight from the farmer. What’s more, there are also vendors selling homemade treats such as hand-dipped chocolates, salsas, jams and jellies. Every Sunday, the market offers more than 50 artists showcasing works like paintings, photographs, jewelry, woodworking, glass and ironworks as well as many other unique handicrafts.
At the Main Street Farmers Market, shoppers can find an array of fresh produce, dairy products, homemade bread, beef, lamb and chicken, flowers, herbs, honey and hand-roasted coffees as well as handicrafts.
Held every Saturday and Sunday, the East Ridge Flea Market is one of the largest indoor flea markets in Tennessee. With more than 200 vendors, shoppers can spend all day finding bargains with the likes of antiques, collectibles, clothing, furniture, jewelry, paintings, toys and so much more.
Featuring more than 200 retail stores, the Hamilton Place Mall is one of the largest malls in Tennessee. Shoppers can shop until they drop in stores like Sears, Dillard’s, Belk, Barnes & Noble, Ann Taylor, American Eagle, Sephora, Buckle, Hollister and more.
Chattanooga offers another great mall as well, the Northgate Mall, which houses more than 100 stores. Shoppers here can enjoy browsing the likes of JC Penny, Kay Jewelers, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, American Eagle Outfitters, Radio Shack just to name a few.
Chattanooga shoppers will enjoy their pick of art galleries like the River Gallery Sculpture Garden where they can find beautiful art sculptures while admiring scenic views of the city. Discover fine arts and crafts from local artists at the In-Town Gallery. Lovers of watercolors and pottery will want to check out the Hanover Gallery.
Shoppers looking to find bargains on name brand items will appreciate Chattanooga’s variety of factory outlets. One of the most popular outlets is Warehouse Row. Situated in a historic building that served as part of a former Civil War fort, the Warehouse Row today is a complex of outlet stores that feature fine, upscale antiques, furniture, jewelry, fashion and more at great prices.
Other good choices for factory outlets in Chattanooga include the River City Apparel Outlet, which sells trendy, name brand clothing for both men and women at outlet prices. Shoppers can also discover fantastic bargains on Polo clothing at the Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store as well as a wide selection of shoes from casual to sportswear at the Bass Shoe Outlet.